CEDA member profile: ACIL Allen Consulting




Les Trudzik, Development Director, ACIL Allen Consulting

Can you tell us a bit about ACIL Allen Consulting?

ACIL Allen Consulting’s mission is to be a leader in providing strategic advice in economics, public policy and corporate public affairs, across a broad range of social policy as well and energy and natural resource sectors.

What are the ACIL Allen Consulting’s priorities for the coming year?

There are a number of issues that we see as key priorities in the year ahead.

The energy economy’s transition is a key priority for us. We are looking to use our work in energy markets and in the resources sector to identify ways to appropriately embrace opportunities presented by emerging technologies.

Indigenous affairs also remain an important issue for us, and we will be working to help inform public programs that address Indigenous disadvantage.

Health and community services are undergoing significant changes, and we will be seeking to apply our experience in the design of community-centred care models to assist with disability and family violence programs.

Education is a critical pre-cursor for establishing an enterprising economy, but it is facing significant issues and challenges across all its sectors. Despite the well recognised research strengths of Australia’s higher education sector, we lag behind many comparative countries in translating this into industry innovation and outcomes. We will continue our work in this area to help foster strong academic-industry liaison.

Evaluation is also a key area for us in much of our work. With ever increasing budgetary pressures on governments, it has never been more critical that the spending of public money is well guided by strong evidence and analysis of what works and what does not.

Working over the range of sectors that are serviced by ACIL Allen Consulting, what trends have you noticed?

Industry is looking for greater certainty in policy and program settings to enable strategic investment and resourcing decisions to be made. One observed consequence is a general stagnation in industry growth plans in recent years.

Why do you think these trends have come about?

The uncertainty is partly the result of the speed of political cycles domestically, but it is compounded by the flux or transition of the economy, including new technologies, the unclear nature of future work, and the impact of the global geo-political climate.

What challenges do consulting firms face currently?

In a period of relatively low growth, it is critical that consulting firms offer relevant advice and add value. This relies more on not just providing answers but knowing the right questions to ask.

What is your role within ACIL Allen Consulting and what have been your priorities for the company?

My role is Development Director. This is a national role and includes both mentoring and developing our early- to mid-career staff, and building relationships and services with our clients.

In terms of providing advisory services, an important area of my work has been to develop a strong education and evaluation practice and establishing strong client relationships in these areas. This has often resulted in a shared and mutually beneficial interest in the career development of each other’s staff.

I am also keen to ensure that the experience and wisdom accumulated by senior advisors is accessible to help the development of early career consultants. This is a win-win for junior staff, senior staff, our firm and our clients.

Looking at your career, where you did start out in the industry?

My current role and work draws on a rich set of experiences. My tertiary education began with studying architecture, albeit briefly, at Deakin University, which led to studying science and a PhD in mathematics (specifically, operations research) at the University of Melbourne. The leap from architecture to operations research often raises quizzical looks but the underlying common pursuit is one of systems design and optimisation.

Following these studies, I had 10 years at the State Electricity Commission of Victoria (SECV) in a number of exciting and transformational roles introducing the then emergent ICT systems. This led onto a role as a Partner at KPMG in government advisory services, after which I joined and subsequently became Executive Chairman of the Allen Consulting Group. The pathway to professional advisory services was a natural extension of what by the end had become an internal consulting role with the SECV.

All of these experiences have been instrumental in shaping my work today. Even the architectural concepts and problem solving disciplines I learned in my earliest studies still play a strong part in informing my approaches to policy, program, and organisational design today.

Have you had any mentors during your career?

I have been extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from many fantastic mentors. At the SECV, in particular, my early managers augmented my academic grounding with vital on-the-job learning and schooled me in practical public policy. I owe a lot to the many openings and opportunities they created for me to walk through. Also very influential was my first Consulting Principal, who recruited me from SECV into external professional services and tutored me in the skills necessary for helping organisations from the outside-in.

Can you take us through any highlights in your career?

One would have to be Project Pathfinder – a two-year project in the mid 1990s to transform the previously separate Victorian Departments of Police, Courts and Corrections into a single justice super-portfolio.

It involved taking a team over to North America to view the then "zero tolerance" regime and the experimental drug and community courts in New York, and Indigenous justice in Canada. This was uses to help inform the design and reform of the criminal justice system in Victoria.

Another career highlight was working on the Parkville Precinct strategy. This was a one-year project working with the heads of the hospitals and educational and research institutions in Parkville to develop a common strategy and master plan for the precinct. The strategy proposed, among other recommendations, a move of Peter MacCallum to the precinct as part of a comprehensive cancer facility, which has recently been realised.

One of the most rewarding aspects of the project was seeing the strategic dialogue evolve over the year, to the point where the precinct did consider itself through one, rather than separate, prisms.

Most recently, I should also mention the opportunity to lead an international skills and workforce planning project to identify the jobs, qualifications, skills, knowledge and behaviours required to build and operate a 50Gw non-fossil fuel based energy sector. We mapped the workforce demand profile against the country’s tertiary education systems (both higher and vocational) ability to supply the qualifications required. It was a two-year project of a scale that dwarfed anything I had previously worked on.

How does CEDA help the company understand and meet the challenges and opportunities you or your clients face?

CEDA’s events and research papers provide a focused lens on issues that are highly relevant to our work and the work of our clients.

The past few years have seen CEDA take on many policy challenges that coincide with our own portfolio of interests, including areas such as addressing entrenched disadvantage, disability and energy security.

There is a strong alignment between CEDA’s focus on economic development and our own. We have had a strong relationship over many years, no less evident than ACIL Allen Consulting’s own Founder and a Former Director, Geoff Allen AM, previously holding the role as National Chairman of CEDA.

Through attending CEDA events we get great exposure to the issues of the day, which helps inform and shape our own focus.

And, sponsoring selected CEDA events and research papers gives us the opportunity to express and promote our interests, and complements very much what we do through our client services.